Swimming and back pain?

by Verna
(Essex)

I swim three mornings a week following a night shift in a hospital. I swim for half and hour but lately I have experienced what I think is sciatica. Could the swimming have anything to do with my lower back pain?

Hi Verna

Without a full assessment it's impossible to be sure what is giving you the problem. If you visit your GP or Physiotherapist they will be able to properly assess the problem and advise you about your swimming. However, personally I doubt that it’s the swimming that has caused the back problem. Presumably, you have been swimming for a while and never had problems in the past? Has anything changed? There may be no reason to point the finger at the swimming causing the back pain any more than anything else. Sometimes though, certain postures can aggravate back pain so a good assessment is essential to clarify this for you.

In fact keeping active has been shown to be the best thing you can do for simple lower back pain. I have met countless people who assume that the exercise they do has caused their problem, then they stop exercising, their back pain doesn't improve but their fitness levels decrease and often they feel really fed up without activity. Another common side effect of this is an increasing fear of activity following back pain, this is a well known problem that can make the symptoms of back pain feel worse and make it more likely that you will get more chronic or longstanding problems with your back.

Sciatica is caused by an irritation of the sciatic nerve and is usually caused by a disc bulge (occasionally other things but less commonly), only 5% of people with back pain actually have sciatica. There is no clear cause for disc bulges, many people have them and don’t even realise it. Many text books will tell you that lifting with a twisting movement may make a disc bulge occur, however I have met hundreds of people with sciatica where the symptoms actually came on quite gradually and it is impossible for them to pinpoint the cause. This section will tell you more about the causes and symptoms of sciatica.

Finally, read more about the Do's and Don'ts of treatment for acute back pain. There are some suggestions here that you could discuss with your doctor.

Regards

Paula


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